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Beginning of agriculture (neolithic and chalcolithic): Part V

Beginning of agriculture (neolithic and chalcolithic): Part V

Chalcolithic Cultures of Western, Central and Eastern India

  • There were several local chalcolithic early farming cultures in western, central and
    eastern India which flourished during the second and first millennia B.C. These cultures were basically village settlements,
  • The distinctive features of these cultures are:
    • painted pottery, which is mostly black-on-red, and
    • a highly specialized stone blade/flake industry of siliceous stones.
    • Copper was known but its use was on a limited scale as the metal was scarce.
    • The settlements consisted of circular and rectangular huts and in some cases pit dwellings are also known.
    • The economy was based on farming and animal husbandry.
  • These cultures are named after their type sites:
    • Kayatha culture (2000 – 1800 B.C).
      • It is named after the site of Kayatha (near Ujjain) located on the bank of the Kalisindh, and affluent of the river Chambal.
    • Ahar or Banas culture (2000 – 1400 B.C.):
      • Nnamed after the river Banas and its type site is Ahar (Udaipur, Rajasthan).
      • Many sites of this culture are known in the valleys of Banas and Berach in south-east Rajasthan.
    • Savalda culture (2000 – 1800 B.C):
      • The type site of Savalda culture is Savalda (Dhulia district, Maharashtra).
      • It is mostly confined to the Tapi valley but the evidence from Daimabad suggests that it reached up to the Pravara valley.
    • Malwa culture (1700 – 1200 B.C.):
      • It was discovered in the excavations at Maheshwar and Navadatoli (Nimar district, Madhya Pradesh) on the banks of Narmada.
      • This culture is so named as a large number of sites were brought to light in the Malwa region.
      • The Malwa people began to migrate to Maharashtra around 1600 B.C., and several settlements have been discovered in the Tapi, Godavari and Bhima valleys.
      • Most extensive settlements of the Malwa culture in Maharashtra:
        • Prakash (Dhulia district),
        • Daimabad (Ahmednagar district) and
        • Inamgaon (Pune district)
    • Prabhas culture (1800 – 1500 B.C.):
      • known after the type sites Prabhas Patan in Gujarat.
    • Rangapur culture (1400 – 700 B.C.):
      • known after the type sites Rangpur in Gujarat.
    • Jorwe culture:
      • The type site of Jorwa culture is Jorwe (Ahmednagar district) in Maharashtra.
      • Extensive occupations of the Jorwe culture succeed the Malwa culture at Prakash, Daimabad and Inamgaon.
    • Chirand culture (1500 – 750 B.C.):
      • Stone and Copper using agricultural communities have been reported from eastern India too.
      • In northern Bihar at a place called Chirand remains of an ancient village settlement have been found.
      • People lived in small houses made of bamboo and mud plaster. They ate rice and fish and hunted many wild animals.
      • They used black and red ware pottery.
      • Similar kinds of settlements have been reported from Sahgaura in Gorakhpur (U.P.) and Sonpur in Gaya (Bihar) where people seen to have grown wheat and barley also.
      • In West Bengal the sites of Pandu-Rajar-Dhibi in the Burdwan district and Mahisdal in the Burdman district have yielded similar evidences.
      • All these settlements have been dated between 1500 to 750 B.C.

Various characteristics of these cultures

Pottery: Diagnostic Features

  • Kayatha ware:
    • Characterized by three fabrics:
      • a thick and sturdy red slipped ware painted with designs in dark brown;
      • a red painted buff ware (thin with a fine fabric); and
      • a combed ware having incised patterns, and generally without a slip.
    • The majority of the pots of the sturdy red slipped ware have a ring base.
  • Ahar ware:
    • There are seven kinds of wares in Ahar pottery but its most chacteristic type is the black and red ware painted in white.
  • Savalda ware:
    • Characterised by a black-on-red painted pottery which is decorated with naturalistic designs such as birds, animals and fishes.
  • Malwa ware:
    • coarse in fabric and has a thick buff slip over which patterns are executed in black or dark brown colour.
  • Prabhas and Rangpur wares:
    • derived from the Harappan black-on-red painted ware.
  • Jorwe Ware:
    • Painted black-on-red, and has a matt surface treated with a red wash.
  • All these cultures have other associated wares which are mostly red or grey. The pottery is wheel made but there are also hand made forms.
  • Pottery shapes:
    • bowls, basins, globular jars with concave necks, dishes, lotas, etc.
    • The distinctive forms of the Jorwe culture are carinated bowls, spouted jars with flaring mouths, and high necked globular vases.

Economy:

  • A greater part of the region in which these chalcolithic cultures flourished is the zone of black cotton soil.
  • The climate is semi-arid.
  • The mainstay of the economy of these chalcolithic cultures was subsistence agriculture and stock-raising.
  • Cultivated Crop:
    • The main crops were barley, wheat,, rice, bajra, jowar, lentil, horsegram, haycinth bean, grass pea, pea, black gram and green gram.
    • Other plants utilized were Jamun, Behada, wild date, ber, Myrobalan etc.
    • Barley was the principal cereal during this period.
    • Evidence from Inamgaon suggests the practice of crop rotation, harvesting of summer and winter crops, and artificial irrigation.
      • A massive embankment was built at Inamgaon to divert the flood water through a channel.
    • Black cotton soil was ploughed for farming operations is suggested by the find of a Prototype of the ploughshare made from the shoulder bone of cattle at Walki (not very far from Inamgaon).
  • Animals:
    • The excavations have revealed evidences of both domesticated as well as wild animals.
    • Domesticated animals:
      • cattle, sheep, goat, dog, pigi horse.
      • The bones of cattle and sheep/goat predominate at most of the sites.
      • Cut and chop marks on the bones of these animal indicate that they were slaughtered for food.
      • Host of the animals were slaughtered when they were young.
    • Wild animals:
      • Black buck, four homed antilope, Niligai, barasingha, sambar, chital, wild buffalo, and one horned rhinoceros.
      • Bones of fish, waterfowl, turtle and rodents have also been found at some of the sites.
      • Bones of marine fish species have been found at Inamgaon and the source of these fish could be either Kalyan or Mahad, the nearest creek ports.
    • The charred bones of both the domestic and wild species indicate that they were cooked in open fire.

Houses and Habitations:

  • Rectangular and circular houses with mud walls and thatched roofs are the most common types, though there are variations in house size from site to site.
  • Most of the houses of the Savalda culture were single roomed rectangular houses.
  • Ahar people built houses on plinths made of schist.
    • Walls were built on these plinths with mud or mud brick and the walls were decorated with quartz cobbles.
    • Floors were made of burnt clay or clay mixed with river gravels.
    • Bigger houses had partition walls, and chulahs (hearths) and quartzite saddle querns in the kitchen.
  • Malwa settlements such as those found at Navadatoli, Parkash, Daimabad and Inamgaon were quite large.
    • Evidence at Inamgaon suggests that some kind of planning was adopted in the laying out of the settlement.
      • The majority houses were aligned in east-west orientation.
      • Though these houses were built close to each other, they had an intervening space which might have served as a lane.
    • These houses at Inamgaon were large (7m X 5m) rectangular structures with a partition wall.
    • The houses had a low mud wall and gabled roof.
    • Inside the house was a large oval fire pit with raised sides for keeping the fire under control.
    • The houses at Navadatoli were provided with one or two mouthed chullahs in the kitchen.
    • The grain was stored in deep pit silos.
    • Circular mud platforms inside the houses.
  • A signicant feature of the Jorwe culture is the presence of a large centre in each region.
    • These centres are Prakash, Daimabad and Inamgaon, respectively in the valleys of Tapi, Godavari and Bhima.
    • The Jorwe settlement at Daimabad was the largest (30 hectares). Prakash and Inamgaon cover about 5 ha. each.
  • A noteworthy feature of the Jorwe settlement at Inamgaon is that:
    • the houses of the artisans such as the potter, the goldsmith, the lapidary, the ivory-carver etc. were located on the western periphery of the principal habitation area,
    • whereas those of well-to-do farmers were in the central part.
    • The size of the artisans houses is smaller than those of the well-to-do.
    • Both these aspects i.e. the position and size of houses demonstrate social differentiation in terms of a lower position for artisans in the society.
  • Some of these chalcolithic sites have fortification walls around the settlement.
    • For example Eran and Nagda (Madhya Pradesh) of the Malwa Culture, and Inamgaon have a fortified mud wall with ditch around the habitation.
  • At Inamgaon has been noticed a change in house types from Early Jorwe (1400 – 1000 B.C.) to late Jorwe period (1000 – 700 B.C.):
    • The Early Jowe houses were large rectangular structures with low mud walls surrounded by wattle-and-daub constructions.
      • These houses were laid out in rows with their longer axis in east-west orientation.
      • These houses have an open space in between which might have served as a road or lane.
    • The Late Jorwe houses on the other hand depict a picture of poverty.
      • Large rectangular huts were no more built, and instead there were small round huts (with a low mud wall) in clusters of three or four.
      • The pit silos were replaced by a fourlagged storage jar.
  • The overall evidence indicates that this shift from Early Jorwe to Late Jprwe was due to decline in agriculture as a result of drop in rainfall.
    • At the close of the second millennium B.C. there was a drastic climatic change in in western and central India that led to increasing aridity forcing the people to resort to a semi-nomadic existence.
    • This conclusion is based on calculations of percentages of animal bones found from different phases.
    • It seems that increasing aridity during the Late Jorwe period led to the decline of agriculture, and economy based on farming changed over to sheep/goat pastoralism.

Other Characteristics:

  • All these cultures are characterized by a stone blade/flake industry based on siliceous stones such as chalcedony, chert, jasper and agate.
  • The tools include long parallel sided blades, blunted back blades, serrated blades, pen’knives, lutes, triangles and trapezes.
    • Some of these blade tools have a shine on the sharp edge suggesting that they were used for harvesting.
  • Polished stone axes, which are typical of the Neolithic-Chalcolithic cultures of Karmataka-Andhra, have also been found at some of these sites.
  • Copper objects consist of flat axes or celts with convex cutting edges, arrowheads, spearheads, chisels, fish hooks, mid-ribbed swords, blades, bangles, rings and beads.
  • At Kayatha, one pot contained 28 copper bangles.
  • Ornaments:
    • Beads made of carnelian, jasper, chalcedony, agate, shell, etc.
    • A necklace made of 40,000 microbeads of steatite has been fond in a pot belonging to the Kayatha culture.
    • At Inamgaon were found beads of gold and ivory, a spiral ear ring of gold and anklets of copper.
  • Terracotta objects:
    • These are in the form of human and animal figurines.
    • The stylized terracotta bulls at Kayatha.
    • Considering the occurrence of numerous terracotta bull figurines at several of Chalcolithic sites it can be suggested that bull was a sacred animal, or may be they were just toys.
  • Daimabad Hoard:
    • a hoard of four bronze objects
      • Two Wheeled Chariot with a Rider:
      • a water buffalo,
      • an elephant,
      • a rhinoceros

Religion/ Belief Systems

  • Mother Goddesses:
    • Chalcolithc communities worshipped mother goddess which is attested by the finding of female figures of clay.
    • These female figures are both with heads and without heads.
      • At Nevasa, a large headless female figure.
      • Inamgaon has also yielded similar terracotta female figurines.
    • These female figurines point to the worship of the goddess of fertility.
    • These figurines (especially the headless ones),, according to one suggestion, may represent the goddess Sakambhari, the goddess of vegetative fertility, who was worshipped for warding off draughts.
  • Gods:
    • Male figurines are rare in the Chalcolithic settlements.
    • The male figurines of clay found at Inamgaon may possibly be identified as gods.
    • A painted jar of Malwa period is considered to be of some religious significance.
      • In the upper panel is painted a scene depicting a human figure wearing a garment of twigs covering the loin, and is surrounded by stylized animals such as stag, deer, peacocks etc.
      • The lower panel shows springing tigers or panthers, which are also stylized.
      • This vessel, richly decorated with elaborate paintings, was probably meant for some ritualistic use.
    • Likewise, finds of solid cast copper elephant, buffalo etc. at Daimabad could have religious functions.
  • Burial Practices:
    • Disposal of the dead by burial was a common custom.
    • Adults as well as children were usually buried in a north-south orientation; the head towards the north and the legs towards the south.
    • Adults were, in a majority of cases, buried in an extended position, whereas children were buried in urn-burials-either in single pots or in two pots.
    • Adults, and also children, were buried in a pit which was dug into the house floor, and rarely in the courtyard of the house.
    • During the Jorwe period, in the case of adults, the portion below the ankle was purposely chopped off.
    • These practices like burying the dead within the precincts of the house, and chopping off the feet could possibly suggest a belief in which the dead were restrained from turning into ghosts, who could become malevolent.
    • Grave goods:
      • The adult burials in several cases contain grave goods which are usually two pots, or sometimes more in number.
      • It was also common to bury the dead with personal ornaments.
      • In an adult burial, a large copper ornament was found near the neck of the skeleton.
      • A child in a twin urn-burial had a necklace consisting of twelve beads of copper and red jasper alternately.
    • The Jorwe period has disclosed some unusual burials at Inamgaon.
      • Here has been found a four legged urn-burial made of unbaked clay. This urn contained the skeleton of a male in a sitting posture.
      • The burial offerings were a spouted pot with the painting of a boat design. This boat design reminds one is the present day Hindu belief that the departed soul has to cross waters in a ferry to reach the heavenly abode.
      • This person who was given such an elaborate burial could be of high status, or the ruling chief of the settlement, or belonging to a social group that practised a different kind of burial.
  • Administrative organisation:
    • In the chalcolithic culture regions, a study of the distribution pattern of the sites suggests that these sites were of two types:
      • one type representing regional centres and
      • the other type representing village settlements.
    • This difference, or hierarchy, has been taken to suggest that some form of administrative organisation was present in the chalcolithic cultures.
    • The presence of an administrative authority is further supported by existence of public structures such as fortifications, rampart and moat, granaries, the embankment and canals (well documented at Inamgaon) etc. found at different sites.
    • Seen in the larger context of the post-Harappan developments, these chalcolithic cultures betray discernible influences of the Harappan culture, though in a residual form.
    • All the same, they are marked by strong regional elements, and also display trade links and cultural contacts between each other.
  • These metal-using farming communities which flourished in the second millennium B.C. disappeared around the first millennium B.C. (excepting Late Jorwe which continued till 700 B.C.).
    • One possible reason attributed for such a decay was increasing aridity and unfavourable climatic conditions.
    • Many of these settlements in the Godavari., Tapi and other valleys were deserted, and were reoccupied after a gap of six or five centuries in fifth-fourth centuries B.C., heralded by urbanisation.

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